Arsenal Technique Overcomes Bolton Brawn

After scoring his goal, and Arsenal’s second which looked to be the vital clincher, Fran Merida sprinted towards the team dug-out. As he did so, Wenger was giving Pat Rice the nod, and on the Frenchman’s command, the assistant coach produced a sheet of paper bearing the title, “Contract: Fran Merida”. The away fans were to busy celebrating to see Merida pull a pen out of his sock and sign his new four year deal right there and then on the sidelines.
Merida’s goal was of the highest quality; technical skill and calmness personified. If you listened closely, you could almost here it laugh in the face of those who bellow each year that Arsenal lack muscle, they aren’t physical enough, and how those kids must toughen up.
Yes, being able to hold your own and compete bodily is a crucial part of the game, and more so in the Premier League than any other, but without the technical nuance in finishing and assisting goals, at the end of the day, it’s almost not worth exerting the energy.
Bolton battled bravely, and under new manager Owen Coyle, gave Arsenal one of the toughest games this season with a high tempo performance that forced the visitors into hurried passes or saw them caught dwindling on the ball. One thing is for sure about the Gunners though, that is, they will continue to play the same regardless, knowing their technical superiority will rub off over 90 minutes.
After Fabregas had carried the ball into the heart of Botlon’s midfield, he laid it left to Eduardo. The Croatian international lifted the ball into the box, behind the darting Andrey Arshavin but fortuitously into the path of Merida. The Spaniard adjusted on a slight deflection, sweeping the ball with him after the deadliest of touches and slotted home low across the keeper with his right foot.
The ball had almost been behind him, still, with the technical deftness to re-adjust with his left foot Merida had carved out a goal-scoring opportunity in the most meagre of space. It showed why Wenger looks for technique first over muscle and brawn when signing a player.
Matthew Taylor had been the primary string pulling along the rest of Bolton’s midfield. He covered a large amount of ground and wouldn’t grant Arsenal a moments rest. For all what it was worth though, when Taylor was presented his own scoring chances, he lacked any sort of conviction.
On one opportunity Taylor was in on goal after a neatly placed through ball. With a nice angle to shoot hard and low across Manuel Almunia, Taylor’s balance and eagerness to shoot too hard instead saw the ball fly deep into the stands. In the second half, Taylor had sprung the offside trap but shot far too early. He hadn’t even looked up yet the panic in his blundered shot said it all.
To be fair, Taylor has made his mark on the Premier League with some exquisite goals during his career, but on the day it was Arsenal’s modus operandi and simple rule on technique above all else, which collected the three points. Look back on the season so far, and you will notice it’s a continuing story of technique prevailing over strength.
The opener hadn’t been bad either. It was as if Eduardo and Cesc Fabregas were reading from the training manual, orientating from the pages as they calculated the best route through Bolton traffic. In the blinking of an eye, the pair had exchanged passes and the Arsenal skipper struck firmly home from inside the box.
“He wasn’t worked on his finishing especially,” Wenger said of Fabregas during the week. “I believe it’s just his calmness in front of goal. He had always the chances and in some games he missed three or four because he wanted always to finish with power.
“Now he finishes calmly. He places the ball and suddenly he scores goals.”
Take note Mattew Taylor.
The goals were not just testament to the ideals of Wenger in terms of how to play the game, it was also a tribute to his policy on who plays it. Merida is only 19 and showed maturity to take seriously his role as a substitute.
Then there was Craig Eastmond of the same age, starting his first Premiership game. He looked comfortable in the hole. Sometimes he was robbed of possession but even Fabregas was caught short a few times. By all accounts it was an impressive attitude the boy from Wandsworth put on and he even made a foul on the half-way line that Alex Song would have been proud of.
In 1995, Alan Hansen famously proclaimed that, “you can’t win anything with kids.“ Arsenal haven’t won the title yet, and seeing how the league fluctuates weekly, they haven’t even got one hand on it. Still, one thing is for sure; you certainly can’t win things without them, as Arsenal confirmed yesterday.
Youthfulness may have its downside when competing against far stronger, fully grown athletes, the likes of which Bolton prosper upon. At Arsenal though, that is compensated for by a generation of lads hungry to succeed and thriving upon the best schooling available in world football.
Of course Merida didn’t pull a pen from his sock and sign a contract, but if the young Spaniard knows what is good for him, he will stay put. His confidence to believe he should be starting games is healthy, but there is plenty of time ahead in his career and he is at a club incomparable to anything else around.

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